Durham cop will not be charged for woman’s injuries while in custody in Oshawa

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Published October 19, 2021 at 12:28 pm

The Special Investigation Unit, responsible for investigating potential police misconduct, will not charge a Durham Police officer after a woman was seriously injured in custody after an arrest in Oshawa.

According the the SIU report, the woman was arrested as part of a theft and attempted fraud investigation on June 18 after police were called regarding a wallet stolen from the Oshawa Centre.

After an uneventful arrest the woman was booked into a cell in the Oshawa police station around 5 p.m. During the post-arrest interview the woman complained of difficulty breathing, explaining that she suffered from a heart and lung condition.

During a second interview, the woman requested her lawyer. While officers tried to contact an attorney, police report the woman repeatedly fell asleep in the interview room.

Later on, a different officer, the Subject Officer (SO) who would ultimately be investigated, took over the case when the arresting officer’s shift ended.

After several hours in the interview room, the woman requested to return to her cell to use the bathroom. She was seen fiddling with her waistband while, “doing something with her hands,” per the SIU report. What she was doing could not be seen since her back was to the camera.

When she returned to the interview room, she began to have difficulty breathing. The officer asked the woman if she needed an ambulance and she said she did not. Officers left her in alone in the room.

The SIU report says the woman began to, “wheeze and breathe heavily,” around 10:50 p.m. She rested her head on the table and by 11:18 p.m. stopped making any sound.

Another officer found the woman unresponsive minutes later. Officers, including the SO, attempted CPR and administered NARCAN while waiting for an ambulance.

Paramedics took the woman to hospital where she was diagnosed with a drug overdose, a brain injury due to lack of oxygen and malnutrition, having suffered a seizure.

In his decision SIU Director Joseph Martino said, “the issue is whether there was any dereliction of care on the part of the SO that caused or contributed to the Complainant’s injuries and / or was sufficiently egregious as to attract criminal sanction. In my view, there was not.”

However, he does note that the, “the SO’s care of the Complainant was far from perfect.” He continues that the officer, “arguably,” should have called the ambulance against the woman’s wishes, given her distress. Martino also said the officers should have kept a closer watch over the woman after the SO left the room, noting there is a video and audio feed in the room which officers did not notice.

However, Martino concluded, “Though mistakes were made in the care received by the Complainant, they were not of a magnitude to run afoul of the criminal law,” and he would therefore not proceed with charges.

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